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Leading Ladies of the Food World: Vivilya Millian

Leading Ladies of the Food World: Vivilya Millian

Auli Cinantya
08 March 2023


Lady Pitmaster Vivilya Millian recounts her journey in establishing Riung Rasa, the inspiration behind her success, and her words of encouragement for women everywhere.


Meet Vivilya Millian, also known as the Riung Rasa’s owner and lady pitmaster. “I spent 16 years working in the corporate world, from assisting the revenue director in Dubai to the Head of Sales and PR in Bali. But I’ve been focusing on the F&B industry these past three years.” For those who don’t know, Vivi owns Indonesian Smoke & Grill House, Riung Rasa in Bali.

Vivi and her husband, chef Maxie Millian, are the driving force behind Riung Rasa. The name “Riung Rasa” is derived from the Sundanese language, where “Riung” means to gather together, and “Rasa” means flavor. This represents both the rich flavors of their food and their vision to create a place where people can learn, discuss, share, and grow together.

The small eatery located in Bukit Jimbaran’s hills began as a pandemic project for Vivi and her husband, a project to maintain their cash flow and keep themselves occupied. However, the small “warung” gradually built up its reputation as a place with big dreams. Vivi explained that the place had become a hub for the community, particularly during the pandemic when people gathered there to share their passion and stories. “This place means everything to me. It’s like caring for another baby, rejoicing in every step and learning daily.”

Vivi’s dream of owning a small eatery started years ago when she pursued her passion for baking. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Bali, she and her husband started selling lunch boxes online with a different menu daily. 

“I love baking; it’s one of my passions. Bali became a ghost town when the pandemic hit, and many people were left jobless. When my husband lost his job, I suggested opening a small business selling comfort food since he was talented in cooking, but at that time, I didn’t know how to cook.”

After finding the perfect spot to open their small eatery, Riung Rasa officially opened on September 25, 2020, serving Indonesian comfort food with a simple warung concept.

“After six months of opening Riung Rasa, my husband returned to work, and I had to run Riung Rasa by myself. It was challenging because people doubted me and even questioned the future of Riung Rasa. I was determined to prove them wrong; it was do or die,” reminisced Vivi. 

Despite facing doubts and skepticism from others, Vivi has consistently proved them wrong. She has shown her dedication and determination to rise in the culinary industry by mastering the art of barbecuing and collaborating with numerous partners. “I don’t have any culinary background, but I’m hardworking and don’t give up easily. I learn every day. Now, 2.5 years later, I still stand strong and continue the business.”

Vivi shares that before she knew how to smoke meat, Tootsie Tomanetz was one of the women she greatly admired. “I was amazed when I watched her on Netflix,” she said. Tomanetz, an 85-year-old grandmother who works as a daily custodian, has been a pitmaster for 50 years. She has honed her barbecue skills at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Texas, where she developed a meticulous and deliberate cooking technique,

“I re-watched Tootsie’s episode once again after I became a pitmaster. And It made me cry. I was inspired; I wanted to be like her, pursuing my passion regardless of age. Spreading joy through food, blessing others, and inspiring people,” she continued.

“We as women are special,” she remarks. “We bring life to this earth. We are great at multitasking; we can think about so many things and still get the job done. Even if you are a stay home mom, you are special.”

“Women tend to be labeled as weak, soft, and sensitive. They can’t work long hours, and they can’t do as many things as men. But I don’t believe that. Women are powerful and equal. Women can be independent and successful too!”

Vivi’s journey in the culinary industry has led her to meet and get to know many remarkable people. She feels blessed to have met many talented chefs, F&B professionals, and customers who have become friends. Despite facing a different work environment and lifestyle – from working in an office in front of a laptop to working with fire for hours, Vivi has learned to be strong. “It’s tough, but it shaped me into who I am now,” she proudly exclaimed. 

Riung Rasa is more than just a restaurant. The name represents Vivi and Chef Maxie’s dream that grows daily. Her passion and dedication are evident in every aspect of the restaurant. 

“I believe it is the time for us women to shine.” Vivi hopes that more women in the culinary industry will receive more recognition for their work. “Don’t ever give up! It’s okay to cry when you feel down or tired or even when others look down on you. Compete with yourself, wipe away your tears, and start again.”

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